Toward the sacred
(Last of two parts)
MICHAEL Demetrius Asis, in his book “Reimagining the Sacred,” says religious educators must shift emphasis from traditional to newer approaches so sacraments and liturgy will remain meaningful to Filipino Catholics.
Instead of emphasizing intellectual definitions of sacraments, focus should be on experiential and personal aspects, with the help of imagination. Instead of sacraments being merely “administered” or “received,” they should be “performance” and celebration.
The meaning of symbols can best be shown by stories. Christ Himself used parables “that taught and clarified the truth, invited people to laugh at life’s incongruities, offered hope to the despairing and healing to the wounded, [and] at once both inspired and provoked thinking.”
“The Catholic faith is well-known for its documents and creeds, moral precepts and catechisms, but unfortunately not for its stories,” says Asis. People are called to reflection and action more by symbols in the form of stories rather than intellectual reasoning. Asis quotes from Maureen Gallagher’s “The Art of Catechesis”:
“Without the experience of story, propositions about faith are dull and lifeless. Stories are the tool of the catechist as a brush is the tool of the painter. After being transformed by the story, one can reflect on the theological truths in the narrative and articulate their value. Stories demand an emotional response, an affective response. Stories require the use of imagination; faith requires the use of imagination. Listening to a good story and telling a good story are ways of establishing meaning, of linking us to others, of affirming our experience and of supporting us through difficult times.”
Religion teachers who need good stories can find them in the book “50 Something” of Fr. Johnny Go, SJ (“In search of good homilies,” Sept. 25, 2011).
Sacraments as “performance” call for more participation by the people. Just as physical activity improves physical health, exercise of faith in liturgy promotes spiritual well-being.
“Our worship… often lacks the organic unity and effective dramatic structure [to make it] moving and effective,” says Asis. “What is missing is a ‘performative’ understanding of how the entire liturgy should have movement—one part flowing into the other—signaling an aliveness than can attract and hold the attention, absorb the hearer or entertain the viewer, making renewal possible.”
Emotions and faith
Many young people complain that the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, are not emotionally uplifting, thus meaningless. But Asis says celebrations cannot always be exciting.
“In worshipping God, we cannot live on an exciting and newly created celebration every day, for the same reason that we cannot have an exceptional meal every day,” says Asis. “We need much peaceful monotony to enjoy the many surprising events of life. If everything was exciting, then nothing would be exciting anymore!
“To enjoy the extraordinary, we must have a steady taste for the ordinary. To do away with our taste for the usual is to interfere with the cycle of ordinary life. While feelings and emotions inspire movement toward action, to live our lives based entirely on spontaneous feeling, mood and what we want or do not want to do at any given moment, is to deny the human condition. Commitments are ultimately anchored on the constancy of ‘learned emotions’ and not on mere mood or impulse.”
Religious educators should challenge the youth to bring to Mass their enthusiasm for other things. They should also help students reflect on their faith and prepare them for a fruitful celebration of sacraments.
“Many moments in liturgical celebrations challenge our faith… The same is true in practically many areas of life—relationships, career, government, Church,” Asis says.
To be Christlike
“Taking on the mind and heart of Christ means configuring the Filipino spirit… more and more to the spirit of Christ,” says Asis. “This means concretely deepening certain characteristically Filipino values by transforming them to distinctively Christlike traits. The inherent Filipino family-orientedness… can embrace the wider community. The Filipino love for feasts and shared meals… can lead to true ‘communion’ in the Lord, in the spirit of the early Church as a Eucharistic community… The Filipino sense of fortitude and quiet self-sacrificing love expressed in the kundiman can engender Christlike compassion and solidarity with others in their misery and suffering. Filipino hero worship… can be redirected to Christ the true King, who wields his power at the service of the oppressed and the disadvantaged poor… The Filipino orientation toward the supernatural and inherent belief in all kinds of spirits… can predispose the Catholic Filipino faithful toward a love of prayer and meditation, while seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit in all their undertakings.”
For copies of Asis’ “Reimagining the Sacred,” call Claretian Communications at 9213984 or e-mail [email protected] E-mail Asis at masis
A peaceful New Year to all.
E-mail the author at [email protected]